A busted exit sign above the door
invites nobody to leave. The windows are barred,
and the panes themselves are painted over with tar.
No question as to what this place is for.
The regulars all stare into their drinks,
lamenting futures, forgetting pasts. Bar stools
are split at every seam. The Tavern Rules
say “No Cussing,” though no one hardly speaks.
They’re married to their grief, you think. But here
you are: Jack Daniels and your worries. The same
as any drunk who will not lay the blame
on himself: drowning instead in whisky and beer.
A man with roadmap eyes searches his pockets
for jukebox change and comes up short. Instead,
the ceiling fan keeps rhythm while each dead
minute tumbles off the High Life clock. “It’s
closing time!” Time for another drink.
The barkeep brings it over, snatches the cash,
flicks his cigarette and drops the ash
into the rusted pit of a clogged-up sink.
This dive, this glass, these greasy fingerprints,
they’re each a part of something very old:
a need to slow the way a story’s told
to keep it all from making too much sense.